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The role of technical skill in perceptions of managerial performance

Sylvia J. Hysong (Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston, Texas, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 21 March 2008




The purpose of this paper is to determine whether technical skill provides incremental value over managerial skill in managerial performance for first‐tier managers, and explore potential mediators of this relationship. Hypotheses: technical skill incrementally predicts managerial performance; referent and expert power mediate this relationship; and inspirational appeals and rational persuasion mediate the relationship between power and managerial performance.


A total of 107 first‐tier supervisors from local petrochemical and engineering companies completed an online survey about their professional background and managerial skills; subordinates rated supervisors' technical skill, power, and influence tactic habits. Managerial performance was measured as: production output, subordinate job satisfaction, and subordinate ratings.


Technical skill incrementally predicted subordinate perceptions of managerial performance over managerial skill. Referent power mediated the relationship between technical skill and both subordinate ratings and job satisfaction; expert power only mediated for job satisfaction. Rational persuasion mediated the relationship between expert power and subordinate ratings of managerial performance.

Research limitations/implications

Clear measurement of multidimensional constructs such as managerial performance and technical skill is essential. Limitations include self‐selection bias and availability of objective technical skill measures. Future research should develop component‐based measures of these constructs.

Practical implications

Technical skill is valuable to managers as a source of credibility and a means to identify with subordinates. Technical skill should not, therefore, be the most important criterion in selecting technical managers.


This study helps technical managers better leverage their technical skills in managerial contexts, and provides new research directions for component‐based performance measurement.



Hysong, S.J. (2008), "The role of technical skill in perceptions of managerial performance", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 275-290.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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